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Study Shows Hunger Changing in Wisconsin

PHOTO: Dan Stein, president and CEO of Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin, says a new study from Feeding America shows the connection between poor nutrition and poor health for Wisconsinites who struggle daily to provide nutritious meals for their families. Photo courtesy of Second Harvest Foodbank.
PHOTO: Dan Stein, president and CEO of Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin, says a new study from Feeding America shows the connection between poor nutrition and poor health for Wisconsinites who struggle daily to provide nutritious meals for their families. Photo courtesy of Second Harvest Foodbank.
November 24, 2014

MADISON, Wis. – While millions of Wisconsinites will sit down to a huge turkey dinner later this week, a new study shows many in the Badger State are having trouble feeding their families, and it's taking a toll on their health.

Dan Stein, president and CEO of Second Harvest Foodbank, says the most recent hunger study from the group Feeding America paints a grim picture of life for Wisconsinites who deal with hunger daily.

Second Harvest Foodbank is one of the largest food pantries in the state.

"Nearly half the people said their health was poor or fair,” Stein points out. “And more than half the families had someone with high blood pressure. And more than a third of the families had someone with diabetes, which are much higher than the general public.

“So, that's what we're seeing is the impact of hunger, is the implications – long-range implications – of health."

Stein says for too many people, the image of hunger is a malnourished child in a developing country, but the truth is, tens of thousands of Wisconsinites ranging from infants and children to senior citizens face a daily struggle to get nutritionally adequate meals.

According to Stein, the typical food bank client has a job and often an education, but is really having trouble making ends meet.

"For most people, the word ‘struggle’ really defines our clients,” he stresses. “They're able to put some food on the table, but just not enough – and not enough nutritious food, because it's more expensive."

The holidays bring out the generosity in many people, and Stein says it greatly enhances the work of hundreds of organizations that regularly donate to food banks.

He says folks may not realize that cash donations are the most effective, because of a food bank's bulk purchasing power.

"We appreciate anybody that donates food to us,” he stresses. “If you went to the grocery store and spent $10, what you would donate with what you bought with that $10 – we can do 10 times as much through our sources."

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI